I was a married woman for 25 years, and I have a disability. The disability was foisted on me in year 13 of my marriage by a severe stroke leaving me with a pronounced limp and a cane to carry everywhere I go. I married the first man who loved me, missing out on the dating scene when I was young.
In the fifth year of living with being handicapped, I was leaving the dental office where my sister worked and as I was unlocking my car in the parking lot a man approached me. He was limping also due to what looked like a deformed foot. “Excuse me,” he said, “Can I ask you a question?” He seemed harmless so I said, “Sure”. “Are you seeing someone?”, he asked.
I took about 30 seconds to process what he was asking. I was married, and not used to being hit on. I wear my engagement ring, but that day I was also wearing a sports jacket with long sleeves and thumb holes so the sleeve covered my fingers. At first I thought he was asking me if I see medical professionals such as a psychiatrist or physical therapists. Slowly, it dawned on me that he was asking if I had a boyfriend. I quickly measured how much nerve this limping man needed to muster up to follow me out to the parking lot to ask me this. Wow. I was impressed. It felt like I took way too much time to answer a seeming simple question. I felt bad for him that he found the guts to do this and I was going to have to shoot him down.
I pushed the sleeve away from my fingers. I said, “I’ve been married for 25 years.” He was clearly dejected. He apologized. I told him not to worry about it since my ring was not visible and he had no way to know.
I suggested that perhaps we could be friends and go for a cup of coffee or something. From the get go, we had having a minor disability in common. He wasn’t looking for a friend. He saw me in the dental office, limping, and believed he might be my boyfriend.
When I told my sister about this patient in her office who “ran” after me in the parking lot, she violated every HIPPA rule there is and told me Alan’s medical history. He had a developmental disability that manifested in several ways, one being a mobility impairment.